The Santa Barbara Journalism Initiative, a nonprofit journalism project created earlier this year and supported by a Knight Foundation grant matched by several local foundations, has announced the hiring of an executive editor, Joe Donnelly.

Donnelly brings a long and diverse journalism background in both established print media and startup publications to the position.

From 2002 through 2008, he was deputy editor of the LA Weekly, during which time the paper was among the most lauded alternative weeklies in the country, winning a record number of awards, including a Pulitzer.

Following that, Donnelly was the founding publisher and co-editor of Slake: Los Angeles, an award-winning, bestselling quarterly magazine serving the greater Los Angeles region. Donnelly served as arts editor for New Times Los Angeles prior to joining the LA Weekly.

Earlier in his career, Donnelly worked for RayGun Publishing, where he was the editor of seminal pop-culture magazines Bikini and Stick. Donnelly was also instrumental in launching, ESPN’s extreme sports website.

He is a graduate of Colgate University and the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Donnelly has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions as editor, designer and writer.

“Joe has been recognized for a broad range of journalistic efforts, ranging from hard news, feature stories, arts coverage and magazine design,” said Steven Ainsley, board chairman for the Santa Barbara Journalism Initiative. “Just as significant is his history in bringing startup publications to life. His proven experience in this regard along with an impressive record of developing journalists made Joe an easy choice for this position.

“It became clear from our first conversations with Joe that he believed strongly in the collaborative opportunities the initiative could and should pursue with established area media outlets. This will be an important driver for everything the initiative hopes to accomplish and it was critical the editor understood this. Joe clearly endorses this approach.”

Donnelly will be starting in his new role in early January and plans to be relocating to Santa Barbara shortly thereafter.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this project,” Donnelly said. “I think a close-knit, civic-minded community is the perfect place to start exploring the best ways to deliver quality, community-based journalism in the 21st century. I’ve always said journalism is a collaborative process between the public and the profession that works best when both parties demand the most of each other. I think we have an opportunity to do just that here in Santa Barbara with this initiative.”

— Steven Ainsley is board chairman for the Santa Barbara Journalism Initiative.